Some thoughts after a devastating loss for the Tigers at home against Florida State…
- One of the reasons the loss stung so much for so many people is how jacked up the fan base was for the game. The crowd was electric, as fired up as I have ever seen it. Even in the second half, the noise level resembled a closer game than the scoreboard indicated. I was thoroughly impressed with the resiliency of a crowd that was repeatedly dropped on its head from start to finish.
- If I had watched the pregame on television, I might have had an “uh oh” moment. The Tigers looked serious boarding the buses and driving around the stadium. I wouldn’t have batted an eye at that had it not been for the calm, cool, and collected approach Jameis Winston showed in his locker room. The Seminoles approached the game with complete confidence, and Winston deserves a ton of credit for galvanizing the locker room.
- Stanton Seckinger had a forgettable night. He was targeted three times. He dropped two passes and fumbled his only catch on the first play of the game. Yikes.
- The play that was supposed to break the noise record—side note: it didn’t, although it was pretty loud—was an 11-yard run. That certainly didn’t contribute to any momentum still in the stadium. The quest to bust up the noise record also wasn’t aided by a detour to the replay booth right before the snap of the ball.
- Winston was about as good as a person could have expected him to be on Saturday night. He was crisp and confident, displayed poise under pressure, and made every throw asked of him. But his legend is largely the product of Florida State’s perimeter players making impressive plays. Case in point: Kelvin Benjamin’s touchdown grab for the first score of the game was thrown into perfect coverage. He just out-jumped Darius Robinson for the football. Plays like that allowed Winston to attack from the outset of the game and have confidence the play would be made every time.
- Florida State had a good plan early on to zone-block the Tigers up front. The Seminoles were able to get yardage on the ground routinely by attacking the back side of the formation and cutting back against the grain of the blocking assignment. This was especially effective on the first two scoring drives.
- Tajh Boyd was all kinds of horrible in the game, and one of the most affected players was Adam Humphries. Humphries was routinely open or unguarded for most of the game, yet he was only targeted three times in the game. One was a throwaway and one drew a pass interference call. It was clear that Boyd was not looking in his direction, even when it was an obvious choice to make.
- More on Humphries: There were two times when he was wide open—legitimately uncovered—before the play even started. Once was on the fumble that was returned for a touchdown. FSU had eight in the box with a safety out high. Clemson had three receivers in the formation, and according to Chad Morris, the play was to be a bubble screen to Humphries, who—once again—was wide freaking open with no one even close to him. Instead, Boyd ran the opposite way, faking the give to McDowell and rolling out for a pass in spite of the fact there was no one there to receive the ball. Martavis Bryant, the only receiver on the other side, was blocking down the field. Morris says he was stunned—my word, not his—about what Boyd decided to do.
- The other play ended up being a loss of yardage for Boyd on a read option play out of the pistol in the second quarter. The Seminole defense was scrambling at the snap, trying desperately to figure out how to cover both Humphries and Sammy Watkins, who were both wide open on the same side of the formation. Instead, yet again, Boyd ran to the other side of the formation right into Christian Jones for a four-yard loss, then threw into coverage twice more for a punt when the Tigers had the ball with a short field.
- For the record, Humphries was also wide open down the middle of the field on the dump-off pass to Rod McDowell on the second series of the game. Needless to say, he should have been part of the passing game.
- Boyd was out of sync with his receivers all game long. The play where Mike Williams ran a post and Boyd threw a flare was Williams’ fault, although his read wasn’t bad. He beat his man, a safety who shifted across due to a cornerback blitz both players saw. Humphries ran a post corner route, which seemed to be the call, when the Seminoles left the middle of the field wide open. Boyd threw to the space, not the receiver, and the pass was intercepted. Boyd also skipped screen passes to Watkins and McDowell during the game, which is uncharacteristic of him.
- On Boyd’s interception to Joyner in the first half, the Seminoles actually had nine players on the field before running a defensive tackle on late. Boyd and the Tigers stared at the sideline as he set up in a defense that had only ten players when the ball was snapped. The play was still a turnover, which is about as maddening as it gets.
- The conversion on 2nd and 29 was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. After a powerful sack by Stephone Anthony and a holding penalty, the Seminoles were backed up close to midfield. Promptly, the Tigers dropped seven into coverage and gave up a 19 yard gain over the middle. Then, on 3rd and 10, Brent Venables blitzed six guys and the coverage allowed a 20 yard gain to bring up 1st and goal, which the Seminoles converted into points. It epitomized the night.
- The Tigers definitely came out deflated and defeated to start the second half, which was perhaps the most disappointing thing about the game. In a 20-point game, anything can still happen. UCF demonstrated that by winning at Louisville after trailing by 21. But there was no such fight in Dabo Swinney’s team, which was frustrating to watch.
- It appeared that the Tigers maybe could have run the ball a bit more effectively. We knew Florida State would try to make Clemson beat them underneath, yet the ball was in Tajh Boyd’s hands a ton during the game. I thought the run worked for much of the game, so it was curious Morris didn’t go to it more since the offensive line seemed to be making headway paving the path for the running backs.
- The Nick O’Leary demolition of Travis Blanks was a MAN play. It reminded me a lot of DeAndre McDaniel’s destruction of Christian Ponder’s shoulder in 2009.
- There’s no question in my mind Jimbo Fisher was sending a message when he kept his starters in the game well into the fourth quarter. In fact, he threw a 94-yard pass from his starting quarterback to his starting tight end with a 41-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. That didn’t happen by accident.
- When the Florida State fans rushed the field to join Clemson’s fans at midfield, I actually didn’t mind it. Was it particularly classy? No, not really. But it was a fitting way to end such an embarrassing night for the program.
I’ll have more thoughts on the long-term implications of this game in tomorrow’s blog. Thanks for reading!